Back to Pentatonix

Pentatonix offers purely vocal music at Delaware State Fair

By Eleanor La Prade
Delaware State News

Updated July 14, 2013 at 10:57PM
HARRINGTON — Pentatonix aims to put a cappella on the pop charts.

“I’ve always felt like it’s an underrated genre,” said Scott Hoying, a lead vocalist in the quintet. “Mainstream stuff is produced. There’s a lot of noise, a lot of sound. With a cappella, it’s very simple.”

The group, which will perform at the Delaware State Fair on Saturday, uses only live voices — no instruments, synthesizers, or auto-tune.

“What is going to make what we do special is the fact that people know we’re doing it all with our voices and we’re not trying to do so much,” Mr. Hoying said.

Pentatonix won season three of “The Sing-Off” on NBC and life’s been a whirlwind ever since.

In the past two years, they’ve built an impressive fan base with their pitch-perfect vocal acrobatics. In two years, they’ve racked up about 100 million YouTube views, 111,000 Twitter followers and 398,000 Facebook fans.

Pentatonix’s debut EP, “PTX Volume 1,” debuted at No. 14 on the Billboard 200 Charts and sold nearly 20,000 copies in its first week.

Their most popular videos on YouTube include slick arrangements of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” and Fun’s “We Are Young.”

But the group members are staying busy working on their own music, too.

Their next EP, tentatively set for release in September, will feature four original songs as well as four covers.

Mr. Hoying said they co-wrote the music using a guitar and piano and then rearranged the songs for a cappella.

“We feel like they’re unique and they cover a lot of ground,” he said.

As the group’s members mature, Pentatonix — named after the five-note pentatonic scale — has started to push boundaries with complex arrangements and air-tight melodies.

Mr. Hoying said they’re trying for a big, impressive sound, but they also want to keep it clear that they’re sticking to their voices.

“A voice can never emulate an instrument as well as an instrument, so we figured out we need to embrace the fact that we’re all voices and really exemplify it and create beautiful harmonies,” Mr. Hoying said.

Each member of Pentatonix has their own eclectic interests and talents, from jazz to dubstep.

Beatboxer Kevin Olusola studied classical music. Tenor Mitch Grassi listens to electronic music. Base Avi Kaplan is into folk.

Before they formed Pentatonix, they were all set on different careers, such as being a DJ, an opera singer and a cellist.

“Every single member of our group, honestly all five people, have very different music tastes,” Mr. Hoying said.

“The five of us found each other and created this new sound, this new thing. And it took off and we have this strong cult following.”

The members of Pentatonix met the day before their audition for “The Sing-Off” and beat out 15 groups for $200,000 and a Sony recording contract.

Mr. Hoying, then a freshman at University of Southern California, decided to audition for the show and enlisted his childhood friends, Kirstie Maldonado and Mr. Grassi. They were all “choir nerds,” he said, and they performed in musical theater together.

Then they met Mr. Kaplan through the a cappella community in Los Angeles and found Mr. Olusola on YouTube after a video of him beatboxing and playing the cello went viral.

“He was surprisingly down to fly across the country and audition with us,” Mr. Hoying said.

Pentatonix has been touring off and on for almost a year. Life on the road “does get tiring,” Mr. Hoying said, but it’s worth it.

“We get to see so many places and experience so many places,” he said. “It’s just so fun to be young and making music.”

They will open for Nickelodeon star Victoria Justice in the M&T Bank Grandstand at the State Fair. The show starts 7 p.m. Saturday and it’s their first visit to Delaware.

“We’re excited; she’s the bomb,” Mr. Hoying said. “I’m a big state fair fan, I’m from Texas. We always went every year, but I’ve never performed at one.”

For tickets, call 800-514-3849 or visit the fair's website. They cost $41 for track and stadium seats and $36 for grandstand and clubhouse seating. Tickets for the 400-person standing room only orchestra pit section are $66.